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Five minutes from the center of Warsaw is the city’s looming, Soviet-era palace of culture, a place where software is almost free. As in many Central and Eastern European countries, software piracy is rampant, and you can buy a copy of Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition or a Ricky Martin compact disc for about five dollars at the Stadion.
The Stadion is a crumbling stadium now home to a weekly bazaar featuring pirated pop music and games, cheap clothes and Russian memorabilia like rusting bayonets and aviator goggles. Although recent legislation passed by the Polish parliament has reduced piracy over the past three years, a 2001 study by the International Intellectual Property Alliance estimated that 85% of entertainment software and 55% of Windows business software purchased in Poland is pirated.
Open Source Pulls Together to Cover September 11th Attacks
Tuesday, September 11, the Internet stood still. Millions of users claimed over 80 per cent of internet bandwidth and caused sites around the world to choke on requests for information. As larger web sites like CNN.com and MSNBC.com fell under the pressure, smaller sites–some run out of bedrooms and failed dot-com offices–kept news and information flowing, proving that the Internet is a resilient beast.
As the importance of the Internet has grown, the value of smaller sites providing news and opinions has become more apparent. The broadcast model of information distribution created by radio and television no longer holds in today’s networked world, and one site in particular, Slashdot.com, proved this admirably. The site survived the onslaught of users and served up-to-the-minute information during the glut, even as other sites fell by the wayside.
iPAQ on Linux
I knew something was wrong when the brightly back-lit screen of my iPAQ went dark. It was a curse: something, somewhere, wanted me to run Windows CE on my little handheld and was punishing me for trying to get a penguin to appear at startup, instead of a gloating little window. By installing a version of the PocketLinux operating system by Transvirtual, I had erased the boot loader in the computer’s memory, thereby reducing my iPAQ to a lifeless brick.
I searched the message boards for the latest information on Linux distributions for my machine. I found posts by users who were working happily with their installations, but there were a few cries in the dark by those whose handhelds, like mine, were dead. The experts at Compaq’s Research Laboratory (CRL) in Cambridge, Massachusetts were ready. They recommended that crashed users send their handheld to them for reFlashing, effectively giving them a second chance by clearing the memory and reinstalling the boot loader and kernel. I decided I had to go see these wizards at work, so I boarded the train at Grand Central Station in New York and came out at a Boston T Stop near MIT, ready to rescue my iPAQ from oblivion.
Linux on iPAQ
For those looking for a powerful ultra-microcomputer that runs Linux, Compaq’s shiny iPAQ 3600 series is the answer. The latest generation of handheld, the 3600 series comes with up to 32 megabytes of flash ROM and a TFT touchscreen that supports up to 4,086 colors. A digital (Intel) StrongARM 32-bit processor, clocked at 206MHz, as well as sound recording and playback facilities round out an already impressive package.
“The fundamental watershed that distinguishes the iPAQ from what came before is it’s capable of being a full-fledged computer. We shouldn’t think of it as a little thing on the end of a dongle”, said James Gettys, researcher at Compaq’s Compaq Research Lab (CRL) and co-author of the X Window System. “You have serious compute capability, significant amounts of memory. So for the first time you don’t have to view this thing as something that is divorced and different. It’s a full-fledged computer that happens to fit in your hand.”
That said, let’s look at how to scrape Windows CE out of our shiny new handheld and see the smiling visage of Tux greet us on reboot.
Portland Water Trouble
Due to a faulty computerized billing system, bills aren’t going out to water customers in Portland, Oregon. The city water bureau estimates it is losing a little over $13,000 a day as they struggle to fix a computer system that has been broken since it was turned on in February 2000.
As complaints about the bureau and its chairman, Erik Sten, pile up, a group of Linux gurus think they can solve the problem. But city hall–through no fault of its own, Sten says–has its hands tied.
“We need to get this thing functioning [in its current state] to stay in business”, Sten said. And that’s just what he and the system’s creator, UK-based Severn Trent Systems, are trying to do: get the thing running.
Putting Linux in Classrooms around the World
Forty-three top students at the Shree Bachhauli Secondary School in Bachhauli, Nepal are learning computer programming, a skill that could keep them out of the child-labor market and rocket them into higher education and a real job after graduation. Their school has 14 teachers and over 600 students, but the computer classes are kept small and staffed by German and Swiss volunteers who work for a group called Ganesha’s Project. They make do with donated machines and focus on open-source software like Linux, a move that cuts the cost of acquiring software licenses for an already impoverished school system.
A New Kind of Mobile Device
Transmeta, the Linus-loving, super-efficient chip manufacturer, this week announced two new mobile devices that knock the socks off of current PDA and laptop offerings.
The devices, OQO Inc.’s Ultrapersonal Computer and Antelope Technologies Mobile Computer Core (MCC), are fully functional, Crusoe-based 1GHz workstations about the size of a deck of playing cards.
PC Expo WrapUp
The veterans at New York’s PC Expo were amazed; they remembered years when the exposition floor was jammed with people. “It was hard to get across the room”, I heard someone say. “It was hard to pass people in the aisles.”